At JJC Law, our team of New Orleans personal injury attorneys have represented car accident victims in New Orleans and all over the state of Louisiana. Clients often come into our offices with a lot of strange notions and misinformed opinions about filing a personal injury claim after a car accident.
A lot of times this misinformation can have a negative impact on their case. In order to separate fact from fiction, we’ve decided to take a look at some of the common myths surrounding personal injury claims after a car accident in Louisiana.
Myth #1: I Don’t Need to Call the Police After an Accident
Louisiana state law requires all motorists involved in an automobile accident that results in injury or death or over $500 in property damages to report the accident to the local police department immediately following the accident. The police report will contain information crucial to any personal injury claim. Without this report, it may be difficult to prove who was responsible for the accident, who was in the vehicles at the time of the accident, and whether the other driver has valid insurance.
In New Orleans, those involved in an accident can wait hours upon hours for the police. It is always good to make the call to the police, take photographs before moving the vehicles out of the roadway (and take photographs with background available so anyone can see the lanes, the lights, etc.), and exchange information with the other driver. When in doubt, have the at fault driver call his/her insurance from the scene and admit to fault on the phone. Record the admission by video or audio even if calling the insurance company is not an option. Ultimately, do whatever you can to memorialize as much information about the accident as possible before you leave. Once the at fault driver speaks to their momma, their sister, or their friend, that person may change their story about how the accident happened.
Myth #2: There Was No Reason to See a Doctor, I Felt Fine After the Accident
If you aren’t experiencing any pain or obvious injury after an accident, you may be tempted to skip getting checked out by a doctor. There are a lot of good reasons why you shouldn’t do this.
The symptoms of some types of serious injuries, such as whiplash or a concussion, may take hours or days after the accident to manifest themselves. By refusing to seek immediate medical attention, you may have trouble proving that your injuries were accident-related.
If you wait days or weeks to see a doctor, the insurance company will say that you were not hurt in the accident because if you were, you would have sought treatment.
Myth #3: I Don’t Need a Lawyer
You don’t have to hire a lawyer to represent you in a personal injury claim, but it’s a good idea to do so. The representation of a personal injury attorney with experience in car accident injury claims can help your case in many ways, including assigning an accurate dollar amount to your damages and negotiating your case with an insurance company. Working with an attorney almost always yields a higher cash settlement amount than going it alone.
Myth #4: I Can’t Afford a Lawyer
Unlike criminal defense and other types of attorneys, personal injury lawyers typically accept their cases on what is called a contingency basis. This means there are no retainers or upfront fees to pay; instead, the attorney collects his fees as a pre-agreed percentage of a client’s final cash settlement.
Myth #5: I’m Required to Provide a Statement to the Other Driver’s Insurance Company
The same rules apply in a personal injury case as in a criminal case: anything you say can (and will) be used against you by the insurance company. The best thing you can do is to exercise your right to silence and discuss with your attorney before making any statement about your accident. This includes social media posts as well.
Myth #6: I Can’t File a Personal Injury Claim Because I Was Partially At-Fault
It’s not uncommon for two or more parties to be at fault in an accident. This doesn’t mean you can’t seek compensation from the other driver. Louisiana state law applies a doctrine known as “comparative fault” in auto accident cases. This means that liability is spread to everyone involved in the accident based on the amount of negligence they had for causing the accident.
For instance, if you suffered $50,000 in damages, and the court determines you shared 10% responsibility for the accident, you’ll still be able to recover $40,000 in damages.
Myth #7: I’m Entitled to “X” Dollar Amount for My Injuries
Just because somebody you know got a particular dollar amount for their car accident settlement doesn’t mean you’ll get the same. Every case is different, with different facts and different dynamics. This is one reason why attorneys never promise their clients a specific dollar for their claim; they simply don’t know how much the final settlement will be.
The insurance company places a certain value on your injuries and treatment based on historical payments for similar incidents and injuries. Your medical history, the severity of the accident, the location of the accident, the doctors who treat your injuries — these things can all impact the value of your case. Thus, accidents are not “one size fits all”.
Myth #8: There’s Plenty of Time to File a Personal Injury Claim
The sooner you speak with a personal attorney about filing a personal injury claim after a car accident, the better. The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim in Louisiana is one year from the date of your accident. If you wait longer than that, the court will probably refuse to consider your case even if the insurance company told you month after month that they would take care of you.
Additionally, the sooner your attorney gets to work on the case, the easier it will be to gather the evidence (such as eyewitness statements) that will be needed to establish your personal injury claim.
Myth #9: Hiring a Lawyer Means I’m Filing a Lawsuit
Speaking with and retaining a personal injury attorney does not mean that you are filing a lawsuit.
If you’ve been in an accident and either party calls an insurance company, the claims process has begun. By calling your insurance company, you are opening a claim with them. Opening a claim does NOT mean that you filed a lawsuit, it simply means you informed them about an accident so that they can begin an investigation. Sometimes, the at fault party opens a claim to advise their own insurance company about the incident. Your claim for injuries and/or other damages against them can then be handled under the same claim number already set up by the at fault party.
Other times, the at fault party does not want to tell their insurance company about the accident. In that situation, you or your attorney will make the claim against the at fault party.
A lawsuit, often referred to as “litigation,” happens ONLY after you or your attorney files formal paperwork in court. Until such time as that filing, you have an open CLAIM with the insurance company that can be resolved “pre-suit” or “pre-litigation.” Many smaller damage cases resolve or settle with the insurance company before a lawsuit/litigation is necessary.
Resolving a claim without court involvement has many advantages. First, you save money in court costs and attorney fees. Second, you’ll probably get money faster.
There are also disadvantages, though. These include having to deal with an insurance company that does not have your best interests in mind. The insurance companies may also try to settle your claim for a lesser amount because it is not in litigation. Your injuries may also be ongoing, which is another reason not to resolve your claim pre-suit.
Speak To A New Orleans Personal Injury Attorney About Your Accident Today
If you’ve been injured in a car accident in New Orleans or Louisiana that was caused by the careless actions of another driver, state law gives you the right to seek compensation for the damages resulting from your injuries. Getting this compensation can be a challenge, especially if you aren’t familiar with the law. That’s why so many people in your position do the smart thing and hire a personal injury attorney to handle filing a claim after a car accident.
At JJC Law, our team of New Orleans car accident attorneys has helped victims of all types of accidents recover the compensation they deserve. Contact us through our website, or call us at (504) 513-8820 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced New Orleans auto accident attorney. We’ll discuss your case, answer any legal questions you may have, and provide helpful professional guidance on the best way to proceed with your claim.